Senate debates

Tuesday, 8 December 2020


Madigan, Mr John Joseph

3:52 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to offer the Australian Greens' condolences to John Madigan's family and, in particular, his wife, Teresa; and his children, Lucy and Jack. I think John, in this place, created a wonderful opportunity for many of us who worked with him to confront some of our own ideas on issues and talk about ways in which we could find a common connection. I was going to reference the quote about submarines being 'the spaceships of the ocean,' as Senator Birmingham and Senator Wong have. While that one may have made it onto T-shirts, the phrase that I often heard John say in the work that I did with him was 'but Jesus was a refugee'. Over and over again, in the work that we did collectively to find a fairer and more compassionate approach to refugees in this country, John was steadfast in his conviction about compassion and in his faith. He would often say: 'Don't forget, Sarah; Jesus was a refugee.'

His ability to listen, to take stock of advice and then to very calmly put his position—whether it was in support of or in opposition to the person he was speaking or negotiating with—is, I think, testament to his strength of character. And there were many, many issues that John Madigan and I disagreed on, from reproductive rights to marriage equality and many others. But we found a common goal when it came to immigration policy and human rights. We often talked about the issues of Tibet. We often talked about the issues of refugees and asylum seekers and would find common ground on which we could work together.

Both Senator Wong and Senator Birmingham have referenced his absolute commitment to the manufacturing sector and the passion that he had for Australia to make things again. I think he was ahead of his time in many ways in relation to those issues, while harking back to the past and still being very clear in saying that there was a massive gap here in Australia and we had to get onto it. I think this year in particular has proven that perhaps, if we'd taken a bit more advice from John, we would have been making a few more things here in the midst of this COVID pandemic.

This chamber and this workplace force us to be oppositional with each other. It is the battle of ideas. It is where we have the contest of policy and where we have passionate debates about our convictions. All of my engagements with John Madigan were respectful, thoughtful and honest. John was no pretender; he was a real person. What he said was what he'd do, and what you saw was what you'd get. Sometimes, in this crazy world of politics, that is indeed incredibly refreshing. I would often find myself sitting in John's office talking about a particular motion or amendment that was coming up, and I was struck by his incredible calmness in dealing with things. Particularly in a period like this, at the end of a sitting period, when the list of bills was stacking up and the government was threatening gags and extended sitting hours, you'd walk into John's office and it was always dark—the lights were always down—and there was an instant calmness. Nothing seemed to throw him into a tizz, as we all know can often happen in this place, particularly when the pressure is on. Sometimes it was nice just to pop into his office and have a bit of a breather. I always appreciated the time he gave me and many others in this place to explain to him the position that we were coming from and the reasons that we were asking for his support. As I said, he was always respectful. In fact, he was nothing but a gentleman in this place, and I think that everyone would accept that. He didn't tolerate bad behaviour and, if he thought you had not behaved well, he'd say it and he'd say it to your face pretty bluntly. I always appreciated that.

His former staff member Chloe Preston still speaks very fondly of John. We've had a number of chats about the time that she worked in his office. She now works for Senator Whish-Wilson, so I think some of those conversations about fair and free trade have probably flowed through. I know Chloe is not here today, but she was incredibly saddened by John's passing. I want his family to know that she thought that he was a wonderful boss and she learnt a lot from him. Again, I extend the condolences of the Greens and my personal condolences to John's family.


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